2021 marks the fifth anniversary of the publication of Mark Farmer’s seminal report on the UK construction industry’s labour model, provocatively titled Modernise or Die. This report urged the industry to embrace offsite construction technologies and other modern methods of construction. 

Five years on from the groundbreaking Farmer Review, the report author reflects on the progress made by the construction industry over that period in an article for Construction Manager Magazine. You can read the article in full here: https://constructionmanagermagazine.com/five-years-on-from-modernise-or-die-where-are-we-now/

While the piece reflects over the past five years, Farmer himself concedes that the last 18 months have been unprecedented in terms of the challenges faced by the construction industry and solutions required: 

“The pandemic has forced the industry to adapt quickly and in some instances, the learnings will stick with us post-pandemic.”

He goes on to say that the issue of decarbonisation – of both new and existing buildings – continues to be the elephant in the room: 

“Just at the time we are facing an unprecedented decline in available and competent resources, we have a whole new technical challenge being imposed to reduce embodied and operational carbon which in itself will redefine skills required across the board. You then have to add the ‘competency’ filter being applied under the building safety agenda. Carbon and safety are two major regulatory burdens that will make delivery much more difficult than today, even if we didn’t have the added problems of a declining competent workforce.”

Farmer notes the ongoing battle for talent – in this respect, Ireland and the UK are similarly impacted – and he believes that the concerted effort to “redefine the narrative as to what a career in our industry represents” is not enough. Furthermore, “simply defaulting to using cheap migrant workers again does not feel sustainable”. He stresses the need to address productivity and for the industry to find the best ways to deliver more with the same, or less, resources. This will require organisational and leadership changes to current business models, enhanced digital adoption, and a more manufactured approach. He acknowledges that ‘change’ will mean different things for different businesses and organisations.

“In the years since I published the Farmer Review, lots has happened and I take heart that we have stirrings finally within industry that all is not well under the bonnet, combined with clear evidence that some businesses are pivoting to different models to secure their future. Necessity is the mother of invention as some would say. I said in 2016 that the industry had five-to-10 years to get serious about change before it faced irreversible decline. We are at the half-way point now and all eyes are focused on where we might be by 2026, and how the seeds of modernisation increasingly being sowed now need to take root quickly.”

About Horizon Offsite

Horizon Offsite Ltd is one of Europe’s leading players in Offsite Construction and Modern Methods of Construction (MMC), providing a fully accredited structural light gauge steel system to the residential, industrial, commercial, healthcare and educational sectors. Contact the Horizon Offsite team at https://www.horizonoffsite.ie